The 15 FBS programs who won’t play an FCS opponent in 2022

By Amy Daughters -

Of the 131 FBS programs set to compete in 2022 (welcome to the big leagues James Madison), a mere 15 – or 11 percent – don’t have an FCS opponent scheduled.

That’s the same as the 15 clubs who didn’t face an FCS squad last season and three fewer than the 18 that did so (or were originally scheduled to do so) in the pandemic-compromised 2020 campaign.

By conference, the Power 5 honor roll includes five Big Ten members (who are legislated against scheduling FCS foes unless they’re playing only four league games at home), two from the Big 12, two from the Pac-12, one from the ACC, and independent Notre Dame. From the Group of 5 ranks, it’s two from C-USA and one apiece from the American and Sun Belt.

That means that the SEC, MAC, and Mountain West all have 100 percent of their membership playing an FCS opponent in 2022.

Each of the teams listed below will face, to differing degrees, a schedule that is one step more difficult than that of their counterparts.

COLORADO

2022 non-conference opponents: TCU, at Air Force, at Minnesota

Colorado last played an FCS team in 2021, Northern Colorado, after taking a two-year break in 2019 and 2020. The next FCS date on the books is a 2024 visit from North Dakota State. If that stands, it will make Colorado FCS-free for two consecutive seasons again as they were just a couple of years prior.

GEORGIA STATE

2022 non-conference opponents: at South Carolina, North Carolina, Charlotte, at Army

Georgia State first fielded a football team in 2010 and joined the FBS ranks via the Sun Belt in 2013. After scheduling three FCS opponents in its first season in the FBS, the Panthers played one such foe per year through 2019, also the last time they booked an FCS club. Georgia State has a visit from Rhode Island slated for 2023, the first of a stretch of four consecutive FCS opponents that runs through 2026.

HOUSTON

2022 non-conference opponents: at UTSA, at Texas Tech, Kansas, Rice

Houston has failed to schedule an FCS opponent only three times since it began the practice of doing so regularly in 2005: in 2012, 2017, and 2020. Moving forward, the Cougars do have Sam Houston State slated for 2023 and 2028, but the Bearcats are set to become members of C-USA next year meaning they’ll be an FBS program at game-time. Houston has no other FCS opponents currently booked.

LOUISVILLE

Back in 2018, Louisville scheduled a home game against the James Madison Dukes for the 2022 season when they were a FCS member in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). However, the Dukes are moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) this season and will count as an FBS opponent for the Cardinals.

MARYLAND

2022 non-conference opponents: Buffalo, at Charlotte, SMU

Though Maryland gets extra credit for not scheduling an FCS foe, they lose points for not booking a Power 5 opponent outside of conference play in 2022. After hosting an FCS program consecutively from 2006-17, the Terrapins have – as per the Big Ten dictate – scheduled such an opponent every other year, or when they play only four league games at home. Their next action vs. an FCS foe is in 2023, when Towson visits College Park.

MICHIGAN

2022 non-conference opponents: Colorado State, Hawaii, UConn

Michigan (who like Maryland doesn’t have a Power 5 opponent outside of Big Ten play in 2022) hasn’t squared off with an FCS foe since 2010, when it nipped UMass (which was still two seasons away from moving up to the FBS ranks) 42-37. The Wolverines don’t currently have any FCS opponents on the books.

MICHIGAN STATE

2022 non-conference opponents: Western Michigan, Akron, at Washington

From 2009-16 Michigan State went FCS-free only twice (2012 and 2015). Since then, it’s taken the alternate approach, scheduling only one FCS opponent from 2017-21 – Youngstown State last season. Moving forward, the Spartans look to be back in the Big Ten rhythm with future dates vs. Richmond (2023) and Youngstown State (2025).

NOTRE DAME

2022 opponents: at Ohio State, Marshall, Cal, at North Carolina, vs. BYU (in Las Vegas, Nev.), Stanford, UNLV, at Syracuse, Clemson, vs. Navy (in Baltimore, Md.), Boston College, at USC

Notre Dame hasn’t played an opponent that was considered a “non-major” at game-time since 1941, when it traveled to Carnegie Mellon (now a D-III program) in Pittsburgh, Pa., and blanked the Tartans 16-0. The Irish have no current plans to play an FCS opponent.

OHIO STATE

2022 non-conference opponents: Notre Dame, Arkansas State, Toledo

The Buckeyes’ most recent foray vs. an FCS squad came in 2013 when they hosted Florida A&M and won 76-0. Prior to that, it was back-to-back season openers vs. Youngstown State in 2007-08. Ohio State doesn’t have any future dates with FCS programs.

OKLAHOMA

2022 non-conference opponents: UTEP, Kent State, at Nebraska

This is Oklahoma’s first FCS-free season since 2018, a run that began in 2013. The Sooners beat South Dakota (2019), Missouri State (2020) and Western Carolina (2021) by a combined score of 194-14. Their next scheduled FCS date is a 2025 matchup vs. Illinois State.

OLD DOMINION

2022 non-conference opponents: Virginia Tech, at East Carolina, at Virginia, Liberty

Old Dominion first fielded a football team from 1930-40, returning to the gridiron in 2009 as an FCS club and moving up to the FBS ranks via C-USA in 2014. Since then, the Monarchs have never failed to schedule an FCS opponent, making 2022 their first-ever season to be FCS-free. They have no future dates currently scheduled vs. the FCS.

PENN STATE

2022 non-conference opponents: Ohio, at Auburn, Central Michigan

After playing an FCS club consecutively from 2008-11, Penn State didn’t schedule such an opponent from 2012-18. It opened the 2019 season with a visit from Idaho (which had moved from the FBS to the FCS in 2018) and then squared off with Villanova last year. Moving forward, the Nittany Lions will continue the Big Ten pattern of alternating years with FCS foes – Delaware in 2023, Villanova in 2025 and Delaware again in 2027.

TEXAS

2022 non-conference opponents: ULM, Alabama, UTSA

Texas hasn’t played an FCS program since 2006, scoring a 56-3 win over Sam Houston State. Prior to that it was a 1992 date with North Texas (the Mean Green didn’t join the FBS ranks until 1995). The Longhorns don’t currently have any future dates with FCS schools.

USC

2022 non-conference opponents: Rice, Fresno State, Notre Dame

USC hasn’t played an opponent that was considered a “non-major” at kickoff since 1952 when it hosted the San Diego Naval Training Station Bluejackets and won 20-6. Though the Trojans also scored a home win over San Diego Navy in 1951, they – as the No. 6 ranked team in the nation – got upset 33-6 on the Bluejackets’ home turf in 1945. USC doesn’t have any future plans to play an FCS program.

UTEP

2022 non-conference opponents: at Oklahoma, New Mexico State, at New Mexico, Boise State

This is the first time since 2017 that UTEP has gone FCS-free. Of the Miners’ five total wins from 2018-20, three came vs. FCS opponents. Moving forward, they have games scheduled against UIW (University of Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas) in 2023 and Houston Baptist in 2027.

Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.

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Comments (18)

Another way of looking at it would be:
How many FCS schools are NOT playing FBS schools in 2022?
This would be an interesting find, and on rare occasions, FCS schools play 2 FBS schools in a year

If Maryland loses points for not booking a Power 5 opponent outside of conference play in 2022 then Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, and USC should lose points for not booking an away game outside of conference play in 2022.

In conferences where there are only 3 OOC games, this is just going to happen sometimes, particularly in cases like Texas and Oklahoma where 1 conference “home” game is at a neutral site every other year. If you want to deduct points for that game at Alabama being next year while this one is a home one, you should add points back for giving up a major conference home game against their arch-rivals since it’s always in Dallas, home or away. Or just count the actual number of home games on the slate rather than just the non-conference games. Texas has 7 on this slate, 6 on the next one, and alternates back and forth between 7 and 6 (pending however expanded Big 12 scheduling and future SEC scheduling works out). 7 or 6 home games is not that unusual for a major program.

Amy Daughters & Klutchpike,

Amy Daughters,
I’d be interested to know why you chose to “deduct points” from MD & no other?
What’s your disclosure bias against them?

I’m only a casual 1-A fbs Fan from the West; but I know MD switched to the Big10 for FB Money’s Sake. Look @ their Record in both Conferences. MD had no FB traction in the ACC, they have no more traction in the Big 10.
I agree with their AD’s scheduling of 3 1-A fbs Opponents who aren’t Autonomous 5 Schools.

MD’s Goal is to win their Big10 Division, they’ve never even sniffed that since becoming a Big10 Mercenary School.
Their name has none of the National Brand Notoriety of MI, oHIo State,TX, SC.

Jeff,
I’m laughing with you but don’t agree with your rationale of comparing a high profile Game in your home State / City of Dallas VS OU as a disadvantage. IMO it’s no disadvantage that FL plays GA every Year in NFL Jaguar Stadium.
Your debating points VS my point?

Hett Todd –

This actually comes up regularly within UT’s athletic department, boosters, alumni, etc. A true home game means the vast majority of 100,000+ fans are *your* fans rather than the 50/50 crowd in Dallas. The locker rooms are your locker rooms. Most teams have better home records than road records (which is a big part of why we are even having this discussion since someone didn’t like that Texas and other schools play all home OOC games). The ticket sales for a home game go more to the home team and don’t have to help pay for the neutral site venue. This neutral site game also means the game has to happen in October during the state fair rather than having random games that are early in the season where teams are still finding their footing, or later in the season when both teams might be 11-0 before one finally gets a loss. It also never gets to be a prime-time game because of the venue.

If people didn’t feel so strongly about the tradition of playing at the state fair, it’s basically been determined multiple times that it would be advantageous to change it to a home/home. The neutral site *does* draw attention nationally, so that helps. And there may be recruits who attended the game growing up that get drawn to play it in college, but yeah, even with the strong feelings about tradition, it has continually been discussed as to whether it should be moved to Austin/Norman.

Interesting piece, Amy. How do you calibrate the level that some opponents competed at back in the ‘50s and ‘40s. As an example, I’m under the impression — perhaps mistaken — that Carnegie Tech competed at a high level back in the day.

Kudos to the ACC, SEC and other conferences for playing FCS teams. Playing a good FCS team is no worse than playing some mediocre FBS teams. I belive there were 12 FCS victories over FBS teams last year. Quit hatng on FCS teams, soon they will be the only true college teams left that aren’t pro.

Additionally, this is the best payday that those FCS athletic departments achieve in an entire year. Most will earn anywhere between $500,000-$1,500,000 for playing an FBS opponent.

This type of article appears annually and is an annual waste of time. The discussion of FCS opponents is in many ways a straw man. A team’s schedule does NOT consist of 3 or 4 only. The out-of-conference (OOC) games are at most 1/3 of the schedule. Why not look at the entire schedules to decide at whom to throw stones. Singling teams out as “strong” schedulers on the basis of their not having an FCS opponent is foolish.

Almost all Strength of Schedule calculation are based on what the average team would do against a given schedule. That is COMPLETELY worthless in determining the SOS for top caliber teams. In a 131 team division team #66 is the “average team”. Consider these two schedules.

Schedule A: #60, #61, #62, #63, #64, #65,….. #67, #68, #69, #70, #71, and #72. Because of the symmetry of the rankings around team #66, the odds of team #66 losing to team #60 are exactly the same as their odd of beating team #72. The same for #61 and #71, etc. Thus the odds are that team #66 would be 6-6.

Schedule B: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6,…..#126 #127 #128 #129, #130, and #131. Again, because of the symmetry of the rankings around team #66, the odds of team #66 losing to team #1 are exactly the same as the odd of beating team #131. The same for #2 and #130, etc. Thus the odds are that team #66 would again be 6-6.

The calculated SOS for these two schedules are exactly the same. That is ridiculous. That is ONLY true for team #66!

Consider team #10 instead of team #66.

For schedule A, ALL of the opposing 12 teams are between 50 and 62 ranking spots lower than #10. The chances of #10 beating them would be 90-95+% for all 12 games. Team #10 would likely be 12-0 or 11-1. In an off year team #10 might lose 2 games.

In schedule B, team #10 would be quite lucky to win 2 games against teams 1-6 but would be favored at 99+% to beat teams 125-131 (6-0). Against schedule B team #10 would be lucky to finish 8-4. More likely team #10 would end up 7-5 or even 6-6. These two schedules are NOT equal. Again, the STRENGTH of any schedule is at the top (forget the bottom). The odds of any decent team beating FBS team #100 are about 99%. The chances of them beating the WORST FCS team are 99.99%, or less than 1 % more.

I feel you, I feel you, I want to believe. But let us be real here. I what other sports do you get to choose your schedule? In wat other sports do you get to choose your own opponents? This is totally fake and rigged. And do not even get me started on bye weeks and scheduling Bum Frick A&M Tech the week before your big game @ ranked Rival. This is total BS. Walt Disney wouldn’t even allow the non-scheduling of FCS if it wasn’t somehow to their financial advantage first off. I don’t trust the schools or the conferences to pick schedules, opponents or craft the schedule. And the schedule should not be set up in advance either. ( which i know, sorry, would be a big blow to your website). A teams schedule should be determined by what they did the previous year, even if we have to get rid of conferences. Alabama’s non-conference next year should be Michigan, Cincinnati and Baylor or something to that effect, not Austin Peay ( the week before the Iron Bowl btw), Utah State ( the week before Texas, btw), ULM? give me a break, Alabama doesn’t play Georgia in conference next year? WTH?, BS! Alabama doesn’t even play Kentucky. It’s all fake, it’s all rigged. I find myself rooting for anything that will disrupt Walt Disneys scheme and their little plans to control everything and make exaggerated and hand crafted storylines. Walt wants to control every single play of every single game. I wanna puke. Guess what Walt, you can take your college football playoff and shove it up mickey mouse’s

All the sudden there are a bunch of dismissive comments about this, probably by fans of teams or conferences that regularly schedule FCS teams. But look, while I certainly respect the FCS level of football and the fact that they play a true championship, and I acknowledge that the upsets that happen between FCS and FBS teams are exciting, they are still exceedingly rare, no matter how much buzz we hear when it actually does happen. The vast majority of these games are kind of… boring? For everyone except, probably, the players of the FCS team who get the twin excitement of 1) playing at the stadium of a team that tends to be a bigger name and has crazier facilities, and 2) they’re likely to get beat on by said bigger team. The point about those schools being even more of a pure form of college football as FBS become more like the NFL Jr is true, but it highlights why this will likely become even more a situation of haves CS have-nots.

My main point is, I’ve attended exactly 1 of these games. Texas scheduled Sam Houston State one year when they had to scramble to fill a spot that, if I recall correctly, had become complicated because of hurricane stuff? Or maybe they were just testing out an FCS game? (It was a whiiile ago so I could be misremembering the hurricane stuff…?) It wasn’t a fun game. Texas rolled. Sam Houston State got crushed. Injury concerns came up throughout. Fans in the stands weren’t having fun. The AD at the time heard it from everyone… boosters, alumni, season ticket holders… and he promised they would avoid scheduling FCS games again. It wasn’t of value to the people watching the game (except that, as some conferences have likely realized, it can be used to inflate your win/loss records across the entire conference, along with the stats for players up for big rewards, since they can do the math and see that, indeed, a blowout is far more likely than the rare upset that happens in these games).

These games are no different than other games played. People get all worked up over labels (FBS or FCS). In 2010 Michigan beat UMass in a “FBS vs FCS” games and was ridiculed for playing an FCS team. In 2012 Michigan again beat UMass but now UMass was an “FBS” school so beating UMass was a show of strength for Michigan.

BTW, the year you mentioned was 2006 and on September 30th, Texas beat Sam Houston State 56-3 (an FCS school), so your memory isn’t too bad. What you didn’t recall was that on September 2nd UT beat North Texas (an FBS school) 56-7 and on September 16th Texas beat Rice (an other FBS school) 52-7. I don’t see a whole lot of difference. If Texas “shouldn’t” play Sam Houston State then they also “shouldn’t” play North Texas or Rice either! My only question is IF Texas is going to play those 3 teams WHY do they have to start the season with them? Why not spread out the cream puffs and give your team a break when fatigue sets in?

UNT has had some rather good seasons in the mix since becoming FBS… they basically were owning their conference at some point. Rice and Texas have history, having played each other a lot, been in the same conference, been referenced as part of a speech by JFK, etc. Neither is always the most exciting opponent from a football standpoint, I can agree (though Rice’s halftime shennanigans can be entertaining), but the high end of their potential was higher than SHSU. As I said though, UT fans, alumni, boosters, etc., let the AD hear about it after SHSU, and they pledged not to do it again. And that’s pretty standard. The high end potential for a team in the American, C-USA, MAC, MWC, and, Sun Belt are all higher, at this point, than the high end potential for any given team in the FCS. The low end is the same. That’s not to say that there aren’t FCS teams that reach up above the worst FBS teams, there always are, but those handful of teams that do that well still are more rare than the FBS equivalents. If it makes you feel any better, I’m not necesarily a fan of playing a brand new FBS team either. But, even saying that, most teams that are trying to get approval to move up from Div II to FCS, or from FCS to FBS… are having to show improvement in a variety of things, including facilities and the like that help with recruiting and competing.

I think the biggest thing, for me, is that there is no consistency with scheduling as it is… different conferenes having their own rules that they think give them advantages or disadvantages… no guildlines for how teams should do their OOC schedules, etc. Nothing that really helps make the wonky championship system we use make much sense. This is just another component of that.

As far as why play them at the beginning of the season, there are a few answers that make sense there. Opening day is exciting no matter what. If you have an opponent that is considered to be a warm-up? Fans will show. If you have an opponent that is a blueblood? Of course fans will show. If you have a game in November? By then you have already used the “opening day” buzz. Further, you know what to expect by that point. If the team is up to expectations and playing well…? Who wants to go to a blow-out against an FCS team at that point? If they’re struggling, that might be even worse as far as keeping the stands packed. And obviously there are plenty of coaches who see strategic coaching reasons to get real-game time to try different combinations of players and such at the beginning of the season.